Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

When Farmers Fight for Freedom

Anyone who has seen movies like 300 or Alexander must know their Greek history, right? After all, doesn’t everyone learn in high school world history class that Athens and Sparta led a Pan-Hellenic alliance to hold back a Persian invasion – the Spartan ground forces holding back the Persian army at Thermopylae while the Athenians logistically ending the war by the naval victory at Salamis – only to turn on each other, thus paving the way to a Macedonian invasion under Phillip II and his son Alexander?

This is certainly the narrative I was raised with. Indeed, the modern student of history is often left with the impression that Spartans stood alongside Athenians once more – this time against Phillip’s Macedonian army – at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC and that the Greeks fell together under the weight of the Macedonian machine.

But this is simply not the case.

In his book, The Soul of Battle, Victor Davis Hanson corrects our history by telling the story of Thebes and their greatest leader: Epaminondas. As it turns out, the once utterly defeated Athens was present at Chaeronea while the renowned Spartans could no longer field a sizeable army. More surprising was the fact that the key ally of Athens at Chaeronea was Thebes, not Sparta. Somehow in the short 66 years between Athens’ capitulation to Sparta in 404 BC and the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, the Thebans under Epaminondas had achieved something that Athens never accomplished in almost thirty years of war with Sparta.

And it only took Epaminondas three months to do it.

To find out how he vanquished tyranny, helped to establish the first Greek nation, and launched the most daring invasion in Greek history, read my full essay over at the Essays of Orate Fratres site.

The Dignity of Male and Female

Could it be that in our race for “peace and justice” we have forgotten the importance of dignity? In the name peace men are so often robbed of the dignity of their manhood. They are told by their culture to be individualist consumers who seek to fill their wallets with cash and their beds with women. By their Church they are told to suppress any kind of physical reaction to evil, to allow injustice to continue (because it is better to “turn the other cheek”), and to avoid playing an active role as members of a nation (especially if that role means defending the nation with a gun). It was a perverted form of piety that led people to turn their gaze when a priest took money from the coffer or molested a young boy, and it is a perverted sense of holiness and peace that tells men to suppress their God-given masculinity in order to be nonviolent in the face of real evil.

If in the name of peace men are being taught to renounce their masculinity, then we could say that in the name of justice women are being taught to reject their femininity. Archbishop Fulton Sheet tells us that in the modern world: “Woman has been made equal with man… She has been ‘emancipated,’ like a pendulum removed from a clock and now no longer free to swing, or like a flower which has been emancipated from its roots.” There are indeed many jobs that both men and women are equally capable of performing. Indeed, it’s just as easy for a woman to pick up a handgun and shoot someone in war as it is for a man. But let us not confuse what someone can do with what someone is – the word sex, for example, means what you are not what you do.

In other words, we must realize that God created us male and female and gave each gender its own unique dignity. Sheen also says that “equality is wrong when it reduces the woman to a poor imitation of a man” – and this is apparent among both liberals and conservatives. Just recently a FOXNews reporter came back from maternity leave and conservative commentators spent the day asking why women should get maternity leave at all since there no longer is anything different between men and women. Or, as some have also said, why does a man have to pay for a date when men and women are equal? The fact is, the dignity of masculinity and the dignity of femininity must be re-presented anew. To quote Sheen further, he says:

The problem of a woman is whether certain God-given qualities, which are specifically hers, are given adequate and full expression. These qualities are principally devotion, sacrifice, and love. They need not necessarily be expressed in a family, nor even in a convent. They can find an outlet in the social world, in the care of the sick, the poor, the ignorant – in the seven corporal works of mercy.
Thus when a woman seeking to join a combat unit is simply told, “No,” it is not a matter of equality, but rather a matter of dignity. This work does not befit her dignity. It is below her. I find it odd when I hear people on the Left insult janitors when they say that America needs immigrants because the work immigrants do is beneath the standards of an American. In this sense, we have re-defined dignity to social status or to the amount of money people of certain races or backgrounds should make. But the fact is that no man, immigrant or otherwise, should be ashamed of his work if that work furthers the needs of the common good, the city, and the nation.

A woman, on the other hand, should ask herself if her work befits her dignity as a woman. Does it allow her to nurture others? Love others? Care for others? Be devoted to the good of others? As a school teacher who works with many women, I see in their work a job that befits their dignity as women and allows them to grow in their own femininity. The culture of our society is becoming more and more difficult for men, as authentic masculinity is becoming more and more overlooked by clergy who teach men to embrace the feminine characteristics mentioned above by Sheen. Men, seeking manhood, have succumbed to the perversion of masculinity offered by an increasingly materialist and atheist culture. Nature abhors a vacuum – and if we do not begin to recognize the intrinsic (and very different) dignity of male and female, then our men will imitate the culture’s counterfeit masculinity because at least it has some sort of masculinity in it to begin with.

"To Till and Protect"

The Book of Genesis tells us that God placed Adam in the Garden in order to “till and protect” it (Gen. 2:15). Tilling and protecting are thus two basic aspects of a man’s duty. Sadly our consumer culture and oftentimes pacifist clergy tend to lose focus of man’s role as protector. Tilling – having a job and going to work – is perhaps more respected, though our culture seems to promote either working too much or not working at all. But this shouldn’t surprise us when people stop attending church on Sunday and thus fail to recognize the need to worship God and properly rest.

Thankfully our nation still recognizes the importance of tilling and protecting by giving us two national holidays: Labor Day and Memorial Day. The former honors man’s duty to till and the latter his duty to protect. It is a real pity that so many Americans treat these days, particularly Memorial Day, as extended family weekends. As we soon enter into Labor Day weekend, let us recall Genesis 2:15, committing ourselves to our working and to our protecting, living out the dignity of manhood and honoring the Father with our humble obedience and our willingness to sacrifice ourselves in shared protective duty.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Aristotle's Children

Over on Farmer's Pence blog there is a great new post on Plato and Aristotle that reminded me of a review I wrote two years ago for a book called Aristotle's Children. The book is well worth the read, but if you'd like to learn more, here's a reposting of my old review:

At the start of the Protestant Reformation, an argument was made against the Catholic Church that it blindly adopted the philosophy of the Greek pagan Aristotle and subverted the faith of the Apostles with the ancient beliefs of polytheistic, idolatrous heathen. What’s more, Catholics had taken centuries to show how faith and reason were not opposed to each other – but for Martin Luther, who kicked off Protestantism, reason was “the devil’s whore.” Moreover, in the classical Protestant view, humanity was so corrupted by sin that not only could no man trust his reason with certainty, he could neither do any objectively good deed whatsoever.

But while Protestant anthropology may be a better topic for a different post, it must be said that Aristotle was as much a controversial figure in the Catholic Church as the Church herself became for Protestants – at least according to Aristotle’s Children by Richard E. Rubenstein. Rubenstein, a George Mason University public affairs professor, paints an epic picture of the loss and subsequent rediscovery of Aristotle and his philosophy. The story of Aristotle’s incorporation into Catholic thought and medieval scholasticism is one of intrigue, infighting, but most of all, synthesis with the Gospel.

Synthesizing classical philosophy with Christianity might seem like a tricky task, but the job is made tremendously easier by the fact that Aristotle and Plato wrote hundreds of years before Christ. As medieval Christians (and Christians of the modern era) argued, these writers simply did not have Christianity before them to work from and they did what they could given what they had. Reason alone can figure out an awful lot, but where reason falls short, faith stands strong.

As Rubenstein points out, synthesizing classical philosophy with Christianity had been going on since the early days of the Church. St. Augustine, perhaps the greatest of the late patristic writers, is known for his Christianization of Plato during the 5th century. Sadly, Aristotle’s works were not taken up as closely as Plato. This was, for one reason, because of how his philosophy conflicted with the calamitous events of the fall of the Roman Empire. Plato’s philosophy spoke in a way that treated this world as temporary and imperfect – and only another almost heavenly reality is where perfection is found forever. In other words, it fit well with the persecutions that had befallen Christians in the past and fit just as well in the face of Rome’s destruction; in other words: don’t worry about this world, think about the next.

Aristotle, on the other hand, pointed out the harmony in this world and how everything can find an order and a purpose in the way things are. There is beauty, goodness, and truth to be found in this life as well. His view painted a much prettier picture of reality’s self-congruence and our ability to enjoy discovering its secrets - or put another way, he exemplified the fact that God created a "good" world. Aristotle, like Plato, believed in a God who gave the universe its start and fundamental meaning – but many of his other views seemed quite controversial. It was in part because of this, coupled with St. Augustine’s triumphant use of Plato, that Aristotle’s works fell to the wayside for over half a millennia.

What I particularly enjoyed about Rubenstein’s book was that it captured the events which led Christians, Jews, and Muslims to translate and distribute the works of Aristotle – and then captured the shockwave of Europe’s dealing with the philosopher’s thoughts. More importantly, Rubenstein looks at the rise of the university system established by the Catholic Church and how Aristotle was so influential in helping some of the greatest theologians of history better articulate the Faith using reason. When Cathar heretics used Aristotle to back up their claims (e.g. that there are two gods), the pope made the controversial decision to allow Catholic monks and university teachers to pick up Aristotle and show how his ideas were not contradictory to the Faith - and help quench the layman's thirst for a deeper understanding of Christian doctrine. In this way, and in many others, Aristotle helped shape the future of Church history as well as western civilization in the Middle Ages.

Without giving too much more away, Aristotle was heavily studied during the 12th-13th centuries as Europe was blossoming religiously, politically, and economically – but he began to be abandoned once more with the darker 14th century and beyond as Europe fell into the horrors of the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death, the Avignon Papacy, and the Great Western Schism. This was only further deepened by the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation and another century of religious wars.

It was also during this time that faith became more and more divorced from reason. Reason (reduced to a materialist-atheist scientism) took over the public sphere while faith became a private matter to be kept out of society and public policy. Though so many people think of the Middle Ages as nothing more than a theocracy, the beauty of medieval Catholic scholasticism was that it kept faith and reason in dialogue with each other. This dialogue was never a fusion of the two as one or identical, but rather as a means of finding deeper truths about God, humanity, and the world around us.

Today we are left with a schizophrenic worldview that must be reconciled once again.

Rubenstein argues that the present age of globalization may be a good time to rediscover Aristotle and do just this. Aristotle’s “ideas have always seemed most relevant to those inhabiting an age of expanding trade, increasing intercultural connections, and rising expectations for human development. The Aristotelian project, which seemed irrelevant in an age of political and religious fragmentation, may serve in the next phase of human history as an inspirer of creative, integrative thought.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

No Place for Protectors?

A culture of life is a culture or protection. Almost ten years ago thousands of lives were taken at the hands of anti-national Islamic jihadists. On that day, brave first responders came to the World Trade Center to help the injured and protect anyone else from harm.

The next day, not a single abortion was performed in New York City.

Since then soldiers from around the world have worked to remove evil men from power – be they Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi. Evil jihadists, like Osama bin Laden, have been captured or killed. In our churches priests continue to act as a first line of defense, standing between us the Evil One. As the ten year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, we should remember the dead and vow to protect the living.

But in New York, it has been announced that no clergy and no first responders will be allowed any presence at the anniversary. And in other news, the international military efforts to protect the innocent by removing the guilty from power have been declared nothing more than a “new international gangsterism” by Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

In the White House, however, President Obama recently placed a Norman Rockwell painting up for display in a hallway outside the Oval Office. At the center of this particular painting is little Ruby Bridges, the six year old African American girl who was allowed into a public school in 1960. What’s more, surrounding her are four U.S. Marshals in lock-step, ready to protect her from physical threat.

We don’t see these men’s faces. Who they are is not important. It’s the power of their arms and their union in shared protective duty that matters most. Since he knows how to honor both the weak as well the protector, perhaps President Obama can convince the mayor of New York that our protectors – be they priests or firefighters – should be present along with the families of 9/11 victims.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Understanding the Cast of Characters

The dramatis personae of salvation history is filled with important people. The names may look familiar, but understanding who they are and how they interact is crucial. Take God and the Devil for example. There are many who commonly make the mistake of comparing God and the Devil, like yin and yang. But this gives the Devil far too much credit because it elevates him to an equal (if opposite) status with God. The Devil may have been the highest of all God’s creatures, but let us make no mistake. The Devil had a beginning, but he will have a very dreadful end.

If we want to find the Devil’s true opposite, a good person to look at is Mary. While the Devil is the most powerful creature by nature, Mary is the most powerful creature through supernature. The Devil is full of raw power, Mary is full of grace. The Devil proclaimed himself to be God’s equal, Mary proclaims herself to be the handmaid of the Lord. The Devil screamed, “I will not serve!” Mary says, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” The Devil was cast down to the world, but Mary, was assumed from the world and has been made the Queen of Heaven and Earth. It should be no surprise to us that the Devil seeks to destroy her (Revelation 12:13-17).

J.R.R. Tolkien once said: “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” The Apostles gathered around Mary at Pentecost and just as she became the Mother of God through the Annunciation, so she becomes the Mother of the Church, the body of her Son. The tenderness and care of a mother, however, can only come when mothers are protected. This is what the Apostles did for Mary in the first century, and the Church has furthered that protection through the proclamation of the Marian dogmas. Mary is the icon of that which we as Catholic men defend. Every virgin and every mother should remind us of Mary, and by doing so strengthen us to fight evil in order to protect true beauty.

At the center of the Christian fleet at Lepanto (1571) was a replica image of Our Lady of Guadalupe – and in less than one hundred years since Columbus discovered the New World, Our Lady led the way to converting the Americas while providing her intercession for the men at war defending Europe from a renewed Islamic invasion. Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, and when Christian men rally around the most holy and sacred container of divine life – the womb who bore God and the flesh which gave Him flesh – we shall always be victorious against the Evil One.

The mortal enemy of the Devil is Mary. Every man that is drawn to Mary’s beauty is brought in turn by her to her Son who makes them brothers at war against the Devil. The Devil’s only hope is 1) to make us think he’s stronger than he really is; and 2) to keep us away from Mary and thus from Jesus. Let us not fall for the lie but instead embrace the truth which will set us free and make us the soldiers of Christ. Let us learn and embrace the cast of characters in salvation history.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Faith and Duty of “Stonewall” Jackson

General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson may have been a staunch Confederate Calvinist, but his sincere faith in God and dedication to His will made him just as beloved by his soldiers as did his military genius. When asked how he was able to keep his calm in the midst of battle, Jackson said:

“ religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death; I do not concern myself with that, but to be always ready, whenever it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live. Then all men would be equally brave.”
Keeping in mind that a general on horseback made a far better target than a soldier behind a fence, we too should be impressed that he “stood like a stonewall” in the hail of bullets around him. Drawing on his actual words, the movie Gods and Generals also gives us an insight into Jackson’s views on duty, desertion, and the will of God:

“Our soldiers are brave. They have endured hardships none of them could ever have imagined. Desertion is not a solitary crime. It's a crime against the tens of thousands of veterans who are huddled together in the harsh cold of this winter. Against all those who have sacrificed. Against all those who have fallen. Against all the women and the children we have left alone to fend for themselves. I regard the crime of desertion as a sin against the Army of the Lord. Duty is ours. The consequences are God's.”
Jackson also understood the role of men in protective duty and production. Security is necessary for the goods of society and family to blossom. In a statement to his troops, Jackson applauds their dedication not only to the cause but also to the citizenry of the nation they are to protect:

“Through the broad extent of country over which you have marched, by your respect for the rights and property of citizens, you have shown that you were soldiers not only to defend but able and willing both to defend and protect.”
“Stonewall” Jackson, a near convert to the Catholic faith, remains a beloved general to Americans in the old South. When Southerners today honor their fallen Confederate generals and the Confederate flag, let us not call them racist. Rather let us recall that their memory of “the Lost Cause” has left them with a deepened sense of patriotism. It is the kind of patriotism that leads not to secession, but rather to line up at military recruiting stations in times of war. Southerners may still reverence the Confederate flag, but the memory of men like Jackson leads them to shed their blood by the thousands for the American flag.

Confusing the Government for the Nation

Governments, like the hierarchy of the Church, are composed of human beings wounded by sin. But it is natural that frustration should arise among us when we see our civic and clerical leaders fail to exercise their duties. As Catholics, however, we know that the Church is holy because it is the body of Christ and thus it shares in His holiness and by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in it as the soul gives life to the body. Furthermore, we know that the declaration “This is my body” is an infallible guarantee that our Lord is present for us in this sacrament of our salvation – and as we partake of the Eucharistic body of Christ, we become ever more the body of Christ, the Church.

For Catholic citizens of the nation, we must remember that we also belong to a civic body. Some would be tempted to say that this implies a tension or contradiction; for who can be part of the body of Christ and the civic body of the nation? Furthermore, we often see so many bad politicians leading our nation. Who would want to be associated with them? But the fact of the matter is that Catholic theology stresses a “both/and” mentality rather than an “either/or” mentality. We belong both to the nation and to the Church, rather than belonging either to one or to the other. And as it comes our civic leaders, we should remember that there is big a difference between the government and the nation.

There are many people who see our nation’s politicians and policies as a reason to reject the need for patriotic duty. President Lincoln, however, helps us better differentiate between authentic patriotism and the often flawed government affairs and officials. In the conclusion of his Gettysburg Address, he offers us three distinctions which should help us understand our patriotism as “an increased devotion to [the national] cause…” He offers us these three distinctions through concrete images: the sacrifice of soldiers, the nation under God, and the government of the people, by the people, for the people.

While we all hope and pray for our leaders, great leadership is often like finding a rare diamond. In other words, there are many presidents but only four get to be on Mount Rushmore. For Lincoln, the dedication and devotion which gives rise to patriotism should stem not from devotion to the Paul Ryan plan or from dedication to a political campaign, but from recalling the shared sacrifice which our soldiers have made on the battlefield. If these men “gave the last full measure of devotion” to the nation in sacrificial death, how much more should we be further devoted to their cause? In this way, the death of the soldier is not tragic. It is an act of sacrifice which consecrates the grounds on which their blood was poured out for the purpose of inaugurating “a new birth of freedom.”

Our government, a representative democracy, may be “of the people, by the people, for the people,” but it is first of all, according to Lincoln, a nation under God. Other nations may have different forms of government. There are, after all, nations in the world formed with governments of constitutional monarchies, parliamentary republics and the like – but regardless of what form of government the nation takes, each nation must first be a nation under God. Without this, the nation can fall to the tyranny of the vote just as easily as it can fall to the tyranny of the despot. Man will either bow to God or raise himself up as God. For Lincoln, the memory of “the honored dead” and the recognition that our nation is under God, infuses in us the authentic patriotism which unites us as brethren, even if our civic leaders and public policy sometimes fails to live up to our ideals.

Instead of lamenting war and rejecting the nation, let us honor our war dead and use the language of duty and sacrifice to shape the personalities of today’s young men, so that they can be the future leaders of the nations under God.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ann Coulter: The New "Gay Icon"

GOProud, the conservative gay rights group founded by two former Log Cabin Republicans who thought the group wasn't extreme enough, brought us Homocon (Homosexual Convention) in 2010 and have now in 2011 announced their newest chair of the board: Ann Coulter.

It seems like another classic example which proves the point of G.K. Chesterton, who said in 1924 that, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”

For Catholics who think that conservatives are always on their side, please think again.

The anouncment from GOProud reads:

Coulter’s official title will be “Honorary Chair and Gay Icon.” “Ann Coulter is a brilliant and fearless leader of the conservative movement, we are honored to have her as part of GOProud’s leadership,” said Christopher Barron, Chairman of GOProud’s Board. “Ann helped put our organization on the map. Politics is full of the meek, the compromising and the apologists – Ann, like GOProud, is the exact opposite of all of those things. We need more Ann Coulters.
For her part, Coulter has said, "I am honored to serve in this capacity on GOProud’s Advisory Council, and look forward to being the Queen of fabulous."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Honoring Fallen Heroes

As the sad news continues to pour in regarding the thirty-eight Special Forces soldiers and their Afghani allies who died when the chopper they were in was shot down by Taliban forces, almost all of the reports of late have focused on the tears of parents, siblings, and friends of the men who died. We must remember that their deaths are tragic, but they are not merely tragic. When young blood is spilled upon the altar of liberty our reaction should not be to disavow war as senseless, but rather bring ourselves to attention and remember the words of Lincoln:

It is for us the living… to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
Those who decry war and violence as senseless fail to honor the men who gave their lives for the good of others. When parents lay their young sons to sleep tonight, they must be ready and willing to give up the possibility of grandchildren and allow their sons to honor the men who have gone before them. We honor our soldiers – whether they are in the military or in the priesthood – not by decrying their sacrifice but by following their footsteps and entering into a higher form of love and communion.

Say Goodbye to the Mother Continent

Back in 2002, Pat Buchanan wrote the short article Say Goodbye to the Mother Continent (click on the title to read the article in full).

Noting that “economic union leads inexorably to political union,” Buchanan warns of a unified European state coming with a successful universal European currency (i.e. the Euro). It happened in the U.S. with Hamilton and it happened in Germany under Bismarck. Unlike Germany and the U.S., however, Europe as a whole is divided by a multiplicity of cultures and tongues. Will European technocrats attempt to eradicate this as they have done so well to eradicate the Faith along with Europe’s population? Who, after all, needs an atom bomb when a condom or an abortionist can do the same thing? Buchanan writes that:

Between 2000 and 2050, Asia, Africa and Latin America will add 3 billion to 4 billion people – 30 to 40 new Mexicos! – as Europe loses the equal of the entire population of Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany. By 2050, the median age in Europe will be 50, nine years older than the oldest nation on earth today, Japan. One in 10 Europeans will be over 80. And who will take care of these scores of millions of elderly, before the Dutch doctors arrive at the nursing home?
Even the Euopean Union itself recognizes the rapid and dangerous decline.

As European nations continue to depopulate, immigration from the Middle East is accelerating and the numbers of European Muslims, who are not afraid of having children, are beginning to rise dramatically. As Buchanan says: “Just as Europe once invaded and colonized Asia, Africa and the Near East, the once-subject peoples are coming to colonize the mother countries. And as the Christian churches of Europe empty out, the mosques are going up.”

Catholics must make the argument which supports national sovereignty, the separation of church and state, and the nature of the Catholic Church as the way to lead Europe and the world towards a union in a universal faith rather than a universal state. If we are to restore the faith to Europe and continue spreading it abroad, we must be able to articulate the nations under God and the calling of all men into the body of Christ.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chris Christie and Islam

Muslims and Islamic nations are not our enemies. Quite the contrary, it should be our hope that Islamic nations can emerge with modern democratic reforms and political accountability, where people of all religions are free to worship God without fear. The enemies we fight are the anti-nationalist forces of radical jihad, and we should be glad when their leaders – like bin Laden – are caught or killed. Every nation, be it Iraq or Israel, has a right to exist and the nations with the greatest power have the great responsibility to help those nations.

Sadly there are those on the left and right who confuse this. It seems that liberals these days will only use words like “jihadist” and “terrorist” when speaking of conservatives. Conservatives, on the other hand, are more likely to extend these terms to Muslims in general. Presidential lightweight candidates Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, and Herman Cain seemingly fall into this category by playing off American fears of Islamic jihadism while seeking to appear stronger on foreign policy.

Thankfully there is a conservative governor like Chris Christie who understands that Muslims are not a threat to democracy. In fact, he nominated a Muslim judge to the state Superior Court, saying that Sohail Mohammed is “an American citizen who has been an admitted lawyer to practice in the state of New Jersey, swearing an oath to uphold the laws of New Jersey, the constitution of the state of New Jersey, and the Constitution of the United States of America,” while noting that the thought of rejecting him because of his Muslim faith “is crap. It's just crazy. And I'm tired of dealing with the crazies.”

Christie doesn’t sugar coat the truth – and that’s why he polls so high among the men of New Jersey.

Funding Bad Actors

Syria has killed almost 2,000 of its citizens and sent thousands more fleeing, but the U.N. has extended its financial aid through 2012 in an absurd hope that money will equal political reform. As the history books can quickly tell us, appeasement is not the answer to dealing with bad actors. Thomas P.M. Barnett and Victor Davis Hanson would both say that you deal with nations like Syria in the same way Germany and Japan were treated in World War II and the South was treated in the Civil War: (1) defeat them utterly; (2) shame them and make them know they are in the wrong; (3) welcome them back into the fraternal bonds of the nations.

You’d think that a group which calls itself the “United Nations” would be able to do just that.

Sadly, the U.N. is not the only group to give money to questionable nations. In 2009, the United States gave a combined 3.4 billion dollars to Pakistan, Sudan, and the West Bank/Gaza. Burkina Faso, Uganda, Namibia, Tanzania, Congo, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe received 2.6 billion dollars. In fact, U.S. Foreign Aid has risen by 262% from 18.1 billion dollars in 2000 to 47.6 billion dollars today. One would think that all this money should make for improvement in these countries.

But for that to happen, any evil men who control the nations must be removed.

In the meantime, nations like the U.S. should really get a better handle on their debt and stop rewarding “nations” led by vile men with government funding. Of course, I might sadly add that the 47.6 billion dollars of U.S. foreign aid is couch change considering the U.S. debt causes the nation to plummet another 4 billion dollars in the hole every single day.

Note: Click on the map at top for a larger image.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Angels and Subsidiarity

Everyone knew that the debt ceiling debate would not end with the compromise bill signed by President Obama on Tuesday. As the nation continues to debate the role of government, federal spending, and entitlement reform, I thought a page from “God’s playbook” might be of some use for the national debate.

Way back, before the creation of the universe, God created the angels. Though we are somewhat familiar with the so-called nine choirs of angels, suffice it to say that the two highest, noblest, and most-powerful of the choirs are the cherubim and seraphim while the two lowest, bottom-most choirs are called the archangels and angels. The latter two are the angels we most commonly read about in the Bible. When God speaks to individuals through His angels (which means messenger), He does so with the lowest of the angels. But God also turned to these low angels at a very important time: the Fall of Lucifer.

Lucifer was a seraph, the highest and most powerful of all the angels. Now when Lucifer rebelled against God, God could have shown is power and vaporized Lucifer – but instead he went down to the weakest of the angels and used them to cast out Lucifer and his followers (which amounted to a whopping one-third of the angels). What’s more, God created man – a being far lower than the lowest angels – to finish what Michael and his angels begun! The point I am trying to make is that God is a staunch practitioner of something the Church calls subsidiarity. The Catechism defines subsidiarity in the following way:

The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good” (CCC 1883, quoting Pope Pius XI).
In other words if a lower form of order can do the job, don’t interfere. In the case of the angels, what seemed impossible was accomplished to the great glory of God and his lowly angels. In our case, we need to ask ourselves: to what degree does the federal government need to inject itself into matters which could be handled at a local level? The Incarnation is a good example of the need for God to step in to help us when we could not help ourselves. Sin was a big problem that needed a big solution. Now the Church grants us a great deal of leeway regarding how to implement government programs, but she does caution us that: “Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative.”

Francis Fukuyama writes of our need for intermediate voluntary forms of association. Citizens of any nation must cultivate a strong sense of local self-government. Furthermore, the bonds of trust that are essential to build strong associations are created by “social capital” which is itself generated by churches and local organizations which tie men together to protect and produce, while honoring God. When we speak of the “debt crisis” let us use the language and imagery of divine subsidiarity, honoring God’s name, and entering into the bonds of fraternal protection and production. If our government programs and spending do not reflect these categories, then our nation has a more fundamental problem at hand than mere spending.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Raising Debt, Cutting Defense

The national events of late have turned the eyes of the country to the debt default crisis. While Congressional Republicans have so far won an important battle on debt reduction, there is a fear that the U.S. military will take a great hit. The picture above speaks for itself: our military capabilities, despite fighting a global war on terror, are roughly half of what they were twenty years ago. Our Navy now possesses a fleet which numbers as many ships as it had in 1916! Furthermore, in 1950 the military took up roughly 50% of U.S. spending. It now stands at about 22%.

The vast majority of our spending now goes to entitlement and debt payment.

When it comes to defending the nation, there's very little left to be cut. Even still, let us hope that the libertarian bent driving much of the GOP fiscal and moral policy does not work its way into foreign policy and defense spending. God created man to fight evil, and we should support any president - Democrat or Republican - who seeks to depose a tyrant. Americans should be as wary of a Ron Paul, who would leave us defensless, as much as they should be wary of a Harry Reid, who would leave us bankrupt.

Like Father, Like Son

Besides a major first century dispute regarding the relationship of Christianity to its Jewish roots, the first major heresy to confront the Church was called Gnosticism. One branch of Gnosticism turned God into a kind of yin-yang duality making the God of the Old Testament into an evil, material God and the God of the New Testament – Jesus – into a good, immaterial God who only appeared to be human. Christians of course picked up on the very words of Jesus (i.e. “The Father and I are one” - John 10:30) and stressed the unity of the Godhead.

Sadly many Christians today believe in a similar duality, claiming that the “Old Testament God” is mean, judgmental, and vindictive while the “New Testament Jesus” is friendly, merciful, and forgiving. Like the first Christians, we must again stress the unity of the Godhead and say: “Like Father, like Son.” In the Old Testament, God created man out of mercy but ordered him for combat against the Evil One. In the New Testament, Christ comes in mercy to reorder us for combat once again. When he returns, however, he shall not return as the merciful king, but as the judge of the living and the dead. He will command his army of men in the final battle against the Devil and his dominion. As the Book of Revelation describes Jesus and his army:

He judges and wages war in righteousness. His eyes were like a fiery flame, and on his head were many diadems. He had a name inscribed that no one knows except himself. He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen. Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod (Revelation 19:11-15).
Christ shall not return as a mere spirit, but as a man with a risen and glorified human body. In his conquest over evil, all those standing in alliance with the Devil are to be “thrown alive into the fiery pool burning with sulfur” (Revelation 19:20). When we pray “thy kingdom come” and “we look for the resurrection of the dead”, we are not merely praying for the return of “meek and gentle Jesus” but for the return of the warrior and risen king. With the writer of the Psalms, let us pray together: “Arise, O God, judge the earth, for yours are all the nations” (Psalm 82:8).